32 Days: The Story of Jan Michaelree

I am not certain why I was targeted or what I did to make administration want me out. I speculate that it was because I advocated for the students’ needs even if it meant disagreeing with administration. I spoke out and acted on what I believed to be ethically, morally, legally, and professionally right. I stood against decreasing IEP minutes just because they were transitioning to a building where there was fewer staff to meet their needs, for ELL students to get the same consideration for intervention as all others, for students in our Life Skills program to get specialized services to meet their unique needs instead of those needs being addressed by teachers not therapists, for students who did not meet criteria for special education to still have specific and targeted interventions to address their specific weakness and for individualizing education instead of generating cookie cutter services. I did not believe in the statement, “Not all kids deserve Cadillac services.” Because the truth is…yes they do. Camdenton is a Cadillac school.

I was nominated for Teacher of the Year in 2010. I had more productivity (meaning evaluations, collaborations, IEP’s etc.) and dismissals due to goals met than any of the other SLP’s in the district. My students made more functional change in the classroom than documented by other SLP’s. For the first 3 years I was employed at Camdenton, my evaluations were exemplary with glowing narratives about teamwork, being an asset to the building and the district, and embracing the school mission and vision. I do not say all this to give myself kudos. I say it to illustrate that I did not think I had to worry about losing my job.

In the spring of 2010, I interviewed for the position of Process Coordinator because there were 2 opening and I was encouraged by 2 different administrators to apply. I was denied the position with the reason that I was too valuable as an SLP. Instead they hired a man from out of district and a man who had 1 year of experience in education. I was told that administration would depend on me to train the process coordinator in my building because of my experience and knowledge. The following year, I spent doing my job as well as training the PC and 2 new special education teachers.

——-Time line starts

The year 2011-2012 began without incident. I had my first evaluation in October which read that I met expectations (that is the highest mark a teacher can get) in all areas with a narrative about me being a team player, an asset to the building and the district, and embracing the district mission and vision. On January 25th, I had my second evaluation and again received “met expectations” in all areas except one item on which “recommended growth” was checked. This was the 1st time I ever scored anything other than “met expectations”.

On February 10th I had another evaluation but unbeknownst to me the Assistant Director of Interventions was present (she has since resigned from Camdenton). She had a Professional Improvement Plan prepared which listed several paperwork errors I had allegedly made. I was told to fix the paperwork and call all the parents explaining the mistakes and requesting signatures that I had done so.

As I went through the allegedly errant paperwork many of the files did not show the mistake that had been documented. I went to my process coordinator whose job it is to proofread all paperwork before it is sent to parents and who is supposed to be an expert in the special education process, asking for help and clarification. He could not see the errors either. He went to administration and requested advice and was told “This is an administrative matter, stay out of it.” When I got this information I requested another meeting with administrators so that they could clarify my errors. My building principal and building assistant principal said they could not help because they did not know anything about Special Education Paperwork. They brought in bigger administrators. I showed them that the errors did not exist. Their response was that it existed when they were doing file review and they accused me of falsifying records. I must have been super talented to change all those files in 2 days.

I completed all that they asked within 30 days although school policy allows 90 days and sat for another meeting on March 8th (this time they surprised me with the Director of Interventions who is no longer employed with the district). She disregarded my work and correction of errors that weren’t even there and confronted me with accusations about not seeing the students assigned to my caseload. They added this to my PIP without documenting that I had successfully completed the first PIP.

On March 16th, I had yet another evaluation accusing me of more errors. So I worked relentlessly to rectify these allegations even though I had pages of documentation of how my students were not missing services and how I was called upon to attend meetings, collaborate with teachers, juggle schedule changes due to assessments, etc. and how my paperwork was not in error and always submitted to my process coordinator for review.

March 27th was the board meeting at which the board renewed contracts for professional teachers. My understanding of what happened at that board meeting was that the board discussed my case with the director of interventions for about an hour. At the end a vote was taken to table the decision until the next board meeting.

I requested that I be placed on the April 9th board meeting agenda so that I may present my case to the board and show evidence that the director of interventions was lying to them. The request was in writing and at least 7 days before the meeting. My request was denied by Hadfield. So again at the April 9th board meeting the director of interventions was able to present her lies to the school board without me being present to defend myself. The board again discussed my case for about an hour. The board voted 1-6, and my contract was not renewed. The following day I was told by Rich that the board generously offered the deal that if I submitted a letter of resignation they would accept it and I could say that I had never had my contract not renewed. I submitted my letter of resignation.

At the board meeting on April 27th at 7:00 am, my resignation was accepted by the school board. Please remember it is now official that I had resigned from the school. On the afternoon of April 27th, the same day my resignation was accepted, I was called into a meeting where I was accused of testing a child without parental consent. I was handed a letter saying that I was being put on administrative leave and then escorted out of the building by my principal as if I were a criminal.

I would NOT break the law by testing without parental consent. I respect the law and as a parent I respect a parents’ right to choose what is best for their child. I was not at the meeting when parental consent was acquired. I was serving my students as instructed by administration. I asked my process coordinator if consent was obtained and he said yes. I proceeded to test the student. As it turns out HE filled the paperwork out wrong and did not check the box indicating permission to test. I asked the case manager who was the only other person at the meeting what happened. She assured me that consent was acquired and even wrote a letter to the board to that effect.

The time between my first evaluation at which I received “recommended growth” (February 10th) to when the school board was supposed to vote on my contract renewal (March 27th) was only 32 working days.

——————————-Time line ends

During all of this a Board member approached my mother-in-law asking, “What has your daughter in law done to make the administration so mad.” She told my mother-in-law to give me her number so she could hear what I had to say. I confided in this board member who seemed to be supportive and interested in justice and fairness. At the end of the saga when this board member was confronted with the question, “why did you vote to not renew her contract?” she replied, “She (the Director) had so many papers, there were too many to go through.”

My building principal several weeks into my persecution ran into me in the hallway of my school on a Wednesday. He put his arm around my shoulder, and expressed to me that he did not want me to leave…I was an integral part of the building team and my skills were unparalleled. He all but assured me he would support me and argue to keep me in the district. The following Friday, just 2 days later, he stopped me in front of the front office and told me in the hallway that he could not recommend my contract renewal. When we discussed it on Monday, after I had time to process the sudden change, he explained that I tried to do too much. I help the general education teachers, the special education teachers and as many students as need it and that does not fit with the district philosophy.

I asked my building principal if he would write me a letter of recommendation. He stated that he would be happy to. When I asked him for the letter later he told me, “I think it would only be appropriate after your resignation is submitted.”

I went to the Lake Sun with my story and spent a good deal of time with them. They printed nothing

It is public record that the board member who voted to renew my contract was the only one who knew me directly, know about special education in the district, and knew my work with her son over several years. I would like to digress for a moment and voice my appreciation to this board member for her unwavering support and belief in me as a person and a professional. Her understanding of the impact this had on not only me but my family and my career demonstrates a compassion and humanity that seems to escape others. I would also like to apologize to her for my fear that resulted from my persecution kept me from publicly supporting her when she was being bullied by the newspaper and the administration. I’m not scared anymore.

Throughout all of this I offered information and documentation of my innocence that was rejected time and time again. I pleaded to the Board and Hadfield to hear my side of the story. I worked diligently to the sacrifice of my family to rectify mistakes that were not even made. None of it mattered. Even after the relentless attacks on my ethics and competence, the embarrassment of being escorted out of the building, and the pain of not being recommended for contract renewal, Administration wanted more than the pound of flesh. They sent letters to the parents of my students who supposedly were neglected. Parents I had worked with for years. Parents of students I cared about, worked with, counseled, calmed, helped, and yes even loved; Parents who trusted me and with whom I had developed a strong relationship. These letters stated that I had not served their child as indicated on the IEP and offered them compensatory services. The administration did not just defame me to the Board but to the public as well.

This seems to be similar Mr. Kirksey’s case. He was going along doing his job, positively impacting his students, supporting his teachers, etc. and for some reason that is unclear to most of us, he is accused of something that someone in higher administration is paid to assure does not happen. Then he is silenced.

Another parallel is that my colleagues supported me behind the scenes but would not stand up for me in fear of being the next on the list. One even said, “I’m glad you understand that I have to protect myself.” The sad thing is I did understand. I appreciated the fact that they agreed that I was being treated unfairly and that the administration was wrong and corrupt, it would have been nice for them to have the freedom to say it out loud without the fear of persecution. It would have been nice for the Board to take the initiative to ask the people who worked with me every day in the trenches what their thoughts were since Hadfield would not let them ask me directly. The truth is that with the exception of one board member, no one cared.

To this day I don’t know exactly what was presented to the board because I was not allowed to be present. And the ironic thing is I was not tenured so they did not have to spend all this time defaming me and fabricating evidence and data. All Hadfield had to do was say he did not recommend renewal of my contract.

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One thought on “32 Days: The Story of Jan Michaelree

  1. I am so sorry for what happened to you. The changes taking place at Camdenton R-III have not been for the benefit of the students, in my opinion. I didn’t need a “job” when I was hired and I didn’t need a “job” when I “resigned.”

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